Before exercising, most experts recommend warming up to help get blood flowing to the muscles and to get the body ready for more intense exercise. As part of this, various warm up stretches are often recommended to help loosen muscles which may be tight from inactivity. Warm up stretches generally cover the major muscle groups in the body, but may also sometimes be targeted to certain muscles based on the type of activity a person is about to do. While stretches may vary, there are several basic techniques that are generally recommended for all of them to help avoid injury.
Warm ups generally include both light cardiovascular activity and gentle stretching. Most experts recommend doing five to ten minutes of light activity, such as walking, to help get the blood flowing to the body’s muscles before trying to stretch them. This can help prevent injuries that may be caused by stretching cold muscles too far.
After completing a few minutes of light activity, warm up stretches designed to work the major muscle groups are then generally recommended. This typically includes stretches to target the arms, shoulders, chest, back and legs. For example, a basic warm up stretch routine before walking might include lacing the fingers together and stretching them forward to help stretch out the arms, pulling the arms across the body to stretch the shoulders, bending side to side and front to back to stretch the chest and back muscles, pulling the ankles up and back to stretch the quadriceps, and flexing the feet up to stretch the calves and ankles.
Routines for more intense exercises may target certain muscle groups more thoroughly. For example, running stretches may focus more on the lower body. They may include stretches that target the hips, groin, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, ankles and feet. Conversely, for an upper body intensive sport, such as baseball, more shoulder, arm and pectoral warm up stretches may be recommended.
In general, experts recommend some of the same basic techniques for warm up stretches regardless of the actual stretch. This includes how long the stretch is held for and the form used. For length, it’s generally recommend that the stretches be held for about 15-30 seconds. In terms of form, it’s generally recommended the muscle be stretched gently so tension is felt, but it’s not painful, and that the stretch be held constantly with no bouncing. These techniques are recommended mainly to help avoid injuries from improper stretching, such as muscle tears.